Support for Parents and Their Children
Anxiety is the fastest growing mental illness in our children today. Why is this? Although there is no one simple answer, it is clear that today’s children seem to be confronted with a dichotomy. On one hand they are subjected to television, movies, computer and electronic games that give them an entertaining yet isolating experience everyday. While they have wonderful entertainment they often are not experiencing direct human connection. Further, they are part of a society that, by the very nature of its evolution, provides fewer intimate moments. Our homes are bigger, causing less incidental interaction. Involvement with extended families is often less frequent, religious affiliations are often weaker, creating little, if any support from the grandparents or church community. More families have both parents working, or single parent homes, resulting in children spending more time alone or with preoccupied adults, leading to children feeling more alone.
According to M. A. Barnes, in his book, The Healing Path with Children, a study stated that from 1965 to 1989 the amount of time parents spent with their children dropped 80%. What do you think that number would be presently? At the very least, it has not increased.
Parenting can feel almost impossible in Canada as there is very little space for it in our society. When raising children we are also trying to sustain a career, make an income, keep our social connections and prove to ourselves that we are up to all the tasks. Over and over therapists hear accounts of parents who are under excruciating pressure, feeling pulled to be a parent while pulled to responsibilities that take them away from the parenting role. Parents are offered support during this very challenging time and given strategies equipping them to be the best parents they can be.
While counselling is available for children and teenagers who have experienced trauma, it has been even more effective to work with the parents of the child or teenager and to train the parents how to respond while ‘in the trenches’ so to speak, when the child or teenager needs specific support. Lois has found that this type of intervention has been highly productive for the child, or teen, the parents and the whole family.
Her approach is using a trauma lens and noting the activation of the central nervous system of each family member including the child. Psycho-education and tools are presented to learn to monitor and lower activation of the central nervous system. Basic parenting tools are given to the parents as well as suggestions that many parents have expressed have been extremely helpful to them. They learn how to apply appropriate boundaries and supports for their children’s optimal growth and behaviour. Recognizing old and often invisible patterns of behaviour are also significant in determining the most helpful way to intervene for each child or teenager. As well as looking at impact of earlier experiences for each child or teenager.
According to Kathy Kain in her book, Building Resilience, What are the protective factors that support resilience in children, in spite of significant adversity? The answer is: at least 1 stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver or other adult. Other identifiable factors are: a sense of self-efficacy and perceived control, sources of faith, hope and cultural traditions, a supportive adult-child relationship, adaptive skills and self-regulatory capacities.
Lois also recommends this class to children with anxiety: Lowing Anxiety Through Self-Regulation© for Children. It is offered to groups of 6-8 children at a time. In this workshop, the word anxiety is never used. Instead, modelling of what is NOT anxious in the facilitators’ life is exemplified. With precision pacing, while providing age appropriate structure and using a series of skillfully selected fun activities and art projects, the participants discover their own way of being grounded and experiencing less anxiety. Parents of these children also are given information regarding the program before the workshop begins and after the sessions end. Specific homework is assigned and parents are encouraged to just let the children initiate sharing their learning. The outcome is that these children change and express less anxiety after attending this workshop. Parents are amazed at how improved the children’s behaviour is in responding to their situations once they have gone through this workshop.